Four EMS students receive National Science Foundation graduate fellowships

May 13, 2015

Three graduate students and one undergraduate student from the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences were awarded competitive National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowships. Recipients include Lyndsey Denis, master’s degree student in materials science and engineering; Jennifer DiStefano, undergraduate student in materials science and engineering; Jesus Ruiz-Plancarte, doctoral candidate in meteorology; and Nisha Sheth, master’s degree student in materials science and engineering.

Denis will be using the NSF fellowship to strengthen her research on ferroelectrics, a group of electronic materials that convert mechanical energy to electrical energy and vice versa, which has applications to renewable energy and alternative power. Specifically, she will investigate ways to preserve certain materials’ properties as they are miniaturized for use in various electronic devices.

“I'm honored to have received the NSF fellowship and will use this award to help positively impact future technology and the scientific community,” said Denis.

DiStefano, who recently graduated with her bachelor of science in materials science and engineering, will pursue her doctorate in materials science and engineering at Northwestern University. She will use the fellowship to explore novel semiconducting materials for next-generation electronics.

“Being awarded the NSF Fellowship gives me the autonomy to help direct my own research and pursue the scientific questions that I find most stimulating, which is an incredible opportunity to have at this stage of my career,” said DiStefano.

Ruiz-Plancarte’s research as an NSF graduate fellow will investigate the environmental conditions governing changes to carbon dioxide levels in an intertidal salt marsh at the Virginia Coastal Reserve Long-Term Ecological Research site. His ultimate goal is to develop a model to predict carbon sequestration in the region.

“I am humbled by the award and appreciate the acknowledgment of my hard work. I feel that this fellowship is a step towards making my dream of a Ph.D. a reality,” said Ruiz-Plancarte.

Sheth’s NSF fellowship research will focus on improving glass durability by investigating factors affecting surface defect formation and mechanical behavior. She aims to understand its properties to minimize glass waste and promote greater material functionality and sustainability that can impact quality of life.

“My long term goal is to address humanitarian challenges through science and engineering advancements. This fellowship will allow me to continue my involvement with humanitarian engineering projects and make materials research accessible to humanitarian organizations as well as STEM / environmental education groups,” said Sheth.

In addition, five doctoral candidates from the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences received honorable mentions from the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program: Mario Machado, geography; Brian Bersch, materials science and engineering; Trent Borman, materials science and engineering; Grayson Doucette, materials science and engineering, and Branden Katona, meteorology.

The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing research-based Master's and doctoral degrees at accredited U.S. institutions.

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Last Updated May 15, 2015